Act now to help poorer countries with coronavirus, or pay the price, warns UN humanitarian chief

Act now to help more fragile countries weather the coronavirus crisis, or pay a far greater price later, the UN’s humanitarian chief has warned rich countries and global financial institutions.

Lambasting the “tepid” response seen so far, Sir Mark Lowcock told The Telegraph that not taking more action now would lead to more poverty, starvation and child death across the world –  the perfect conditions for conflict, insecurity and extremism to thrive.  

Pointing to the vast collective global efforts made to shore up poorer countries during the 2008-9 financial crisis, he said: “Countries, including the European Union and the United Kingdom, collectively need to stand back and ask themselves: do we really want to deal with the consequences of not providing that kind of support this time?” 

Billions are still missing from international relief efforts, and Sir Mark, the UN’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, briefed the Security Council in New York on Wednesday about the remaining gaps. 

“Woefully inadequate economic and political action will lead to greater instability and conflicts in the coming years. More crises will be on this Council’s agenda,” he told the Council. 

“So… while we may have been surprised by the virus, we cannot say the same of the security and humanitarian crises that most certainly lay ahead if we don’t change course.” 

Ahead of the meeting, Sir Mark told The Telegraph that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have already highlighted the devastating impact of the pandemic on the world’s most vulnerable countries. But he said that “tensions among leading nations” meant the banks were unable to get their shareholders, the same nations also sitting on the Security Council, to agree to even basic measures to help.

International financial institutions have given low income countries around $10billion to support them through the pandemic. This pales in comparison to the $10 trillion that richer countries have spent shoring up their economies, said Sir Mark.

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